First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Edoardo Vallebella: Luckily, all our family and friends are fine, and we are aware of how important this is nowadays. We are all suffering for this moment, and we hope we can all get the best out of it. I myself contracted the Covid-19 virus several months ago, during the so-called “first wave” – that has hit Italy very hard. I had no serious symptoms, and I haven’t been infecting for anyone else, having taken all the necessary and needed precautions.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Stip.
Edoardo Vallebella: I have always been passionate about the startup universe. I am 26 years old now, and a few years ago, I started working in the management of TIM WCAP business accelerator before working as a mentor for a national innovation lab (Lazio Innova).
Stip, the startup of which I am co-Founder with two friends and peers, was born in 2017. In 2015 I met Fabrizio and Amir, my co-Founders, during Innovation Lab, that at the time was the most important entrepreneurial training course in Italy.
Understanding the importance that the customer service sector was acquiring within the international scene, we immediately thought to work together on a solution that could streamline and improve communication between customers and companies. In the beginning, we decided on a more customer-oriented focus, then we developed and improved the idea with a B2B perspective, and we got to our current product, also thanks to the help of our valuable team.
In 2019 Stip has been accelerated by LVenture Group, the top startup accelerator in Italy. In the same year, our startup has also been accelerated by SkyDeck Berkeley, one of the top 3 of the Silicon Valley.
How does Stip innovate?
Edoardo Vallebella: Stip is a highly innovative project from both a technological point of view and a business one, considering it fills a gap in the market as there are, to date, no fully assimilable solutions. Our technology, put together by our technical team – PhDs, Big Data Experts, UXs, and backend and frontend developers – is 3 layers of Artificial Intelligence that allow companies to:
· make their customer service teams 300% more efficient,
· save 67% on all activities related to customer care,
· reduce problem-to-solution time by 70% (and not only response time, unlike chatbots), improving brand perceived image quality and overall customer satisfaction.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Edoardo Vallebella: Obviously, COVID-19 has had an impact on our work, as it has had an impact on our lives and the internal dynamics of the startup, its investors, and its clients. Being a rather cross-cutting B2B, we interface with companies of different sizes in many industries. Some have suffered much more than others, and, inevitably, this has had repercussions. Like everyone else, we have had to face the new reality that is shaping up, finding ourselves demanding sacrifices from our team. Despite that, we are facing this moment in the best possible way, relying on the collaboration of our guys, and we hope for a better future for everyone.
It also must be admitted that the sector in which we operate is not among those affected by the crisis, on the contrary. We work in the digital environment, and COVID-19 has, in a way, had a positive impact on the business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Edoardo Vallebella: “To pause,” our expansion in the US has been the hardest decision to make, but we felt it was right to do so. We all preferred to be in Italy together. This decision allowed us, on the one hand, to understand how important it is to have a motivated team that supports the startup by believing strongly in the project. On the other hand, from a business point of view, it confirmed the importance and strong growth of the sector on which we decided to build our business: customer service.
The social distancing, the lockdown, and all the measures that have been taken to contain the virus have increased the importance of communication through digital channels between companies, political and administrative organizations, and citizens (or customers). We hope to be able to make our technology available to the Regions or any other organization that needs to make communication with citizens more fluid, streamlined, and rapid.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Stip in the future?
Edoardo Vallebella: Summing up, we are quite optimistic. Stip is carving out an important space in Italy, and we hope, also thanks to Berkeley SkyDeck, to obtain interesting results at an international level.
Regardless of the international evolution of our startup and the fact that we will continue to work hard to offer companies our best product, we also hope to put our technology and our knowledge at the service of citizens and administrative and health bodies and to be able to support them in such a complex period.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Edoardo Vallebella: We have worked hard to turn our competitors – the big CRM companies – into our partners. Today we are able to work by integrating effortlessly with all the solutions on the market. At a purely conceptual level, Stip competitors could be considered chatbots, given the perception of AI applied to customer service. But this parallelism is not exact: Stip strongly believes in human interaction in customer service made by people. For this reason, it does not want to eliminate this fundamental part of the process but to make it extremely more efficient and productive.